It is amazing how quickly our minds can pass judgment. I understand the biological reasons why we have to, but it still amazes me.
I remember being a junior in college. I was an Aviation Management Major and had the privilege of attending a conference hosted by Women in Aviation International. I was really excited because I got to fly to the conference, stay in a nice hotel and learn more about the aviation industry all on my school’s dime. The conference was your typical conference: speakers, presentations, vendors, networking. The hotel was a lovely hotel that had trees and a faux river that ran through the lobby. Everything was amazing to my college eyes. All but me.
I was a single parent and had given my last dimes to pay bills before I left home. I attended this conference with no money at all and therefore was unable to eat. I sought out every event where there was food, because meals were not provided. In my fit of hunger I felt myself becoming bitter and angry. I felt like the professional women there could not possibly understand what I was going through, being broke and hungry. They had their fancy careers and made their gobs of money. They couldn’t possibly get it.
It wasn’t until years later when I took a corporate, office job and was invited to attend an event where there were beautifully dressed, well poised, professional women that my eyes were opened.
I met an older lady who took time to get real with me. She shared her story of how she too was a single mother at one point and had to rely on others in order to care for her son. She described how hard she worked to get to where she was today. She described the discrimination she faced as not only a woman but also a black woman. How she cried at times in her private moments.
At that moment I realized how foolish I was at the conference years ago to assume that the women there could not possibly get it. Honestly, I was now one of those women I judged. I was attending special events regularly and getting dressed to the nines. If someone were to just see me they could assume my life had always been pretty.
You see, we cannot look at someone and know their story; we can only learn someone’s story if we give them an opportunity to tell it and we are open to listen.
It is easier for us to dismiss one another based upon our assumptions but I believe that if we took time to listen we would find that we had more in common than we think. That wealthy business person might have grown up in poverty, and it was the struggle they faced in their youth that gave them the drive they needed to pull themselves out of poverty. That mother who seems to have it all together, may have lost a child and understands the fragility of life.
We all have something. Something that is a part of our story. Sometimes our somethings are big, sometimes they are small, but one person’s something is not greater than another’s. We are all just trying to live.
I challenge you to go to someone today and listen. Really get to know who they are. Not what they do, but who they are. Be open. You might find that you have more in common than you thought.
Have you had an experience where you made an assumption about someone, or a group of people, only to have the assumption be wrong?